McConnell Updated to Accommodate
Changes in Teaching
McConnell Hall was overdue for some changes.
Since it was built in 1967 as part of the original Clark Science
Center, McConnell, the academic building between Bass and
Burton halls, has not been updated. McConnell houses the science
center’s busiest classrooms and auditorium, as well
as the computer science, physics and astronomy departments.
Also, the technical machine shop resides the McConnell basement.
McConnell Hall’s classrooms and central lecture hall
had been designed for a different type of teaching, circa
1970, in which a faculty member lectures to an attentive class
of students, who scribble notes of what they hear with minimal
interaction, says Tom Litwin, director of the Clark Science
“The building really needed renovating,” he says
of McConnell. “We have moved into a new era of experiential,
hands-on learning, and the building had to be brought along
So as of May, McConnell went
off line for the summer while much-needed modifications and
renovations have begun on its airflow systems, its basement
and first-floor classrooms and labs, the machine shop and
When the project is finished, McConnell will be the location
of state-of-the-art classrooms with audio-visual upgrades,
including Internet projection capabilities, user-friendly
lighting systems and versatile teaching spaces, says Litwin.
McConnell Auditorium, in particular, will be a more efficient
and flexible teaching space, though it may be unrecognizable
from its former shape—a steeply sloping, fixed-seating
lecture hall with insufficient teaching options and limited
legroom. The new, 95-seat hall will feature a better use of
the vertical space as well as moveable furniture that can
be adapted to different lectures and presentations.
“These new teaching spaces are designed for more interactive
teaching,” says Litwin, who began at Smith in 1989.
“They are also designed to enable a faculty member to
focus on teaching rather than on the mechanics of the room.
They will be able to focus on the substance of their course
Just as importantly, the building will be equipped with cooling
and heating systems that generate more air flow, making for
a healthier space in which to work.
Litwin, a member of the college’s Sustainability Committee
and the founding director of the Environmental Science and
Policy Program, has overseen the McConnell renovations with
an eye toward the building’s use of natural resources.
“Anything we have done in McConnell has been a step
in the right direction in terms of energy efficiency,”
he said, though he emphasizes those efforts have been somewhat
limited by the original infrastructure in the 38-year-old
The McConnell renovations are on schedule to be completed
by August 29, in time to accommodate a full slate of classes
to begin the new academic year.